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In her childhood years Kowalczyk was a keen athlete and played basketball and handball to a high standard.
She took up cross country skiing at the age of 10 and competed in her first FIS World Cup race at Cogne (ITA) in December 2001, and her first world championships in Val di Fiemme (ITA) in February 2003.
She won three medals at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, including one gold in the 30-kilometre classical, one silver in the individual sprint, and one bronze in the pursuit, becoming the third Polish athlete to scoop three medals in a single Olympic Games (next to Irena Szewińska and Otylia Jędrzejczak).
The champion skier nevertheless regards herself as a child of Capricorn, explaining that she owes her stubbornness to the fact that she was born under the tenth sign of the zodiac.
Her career took off at Turin 2006, when she won Olympic bronze in the 30km freestyle behind Russia’s Julia Tchepalova and gold medal winner Katerina Neumanova of Czech Republic.
It was Poland’s first ever Olympic medal in cross country skiing.
Four years later in Vancouver, Kowalczyk picked up a silver in the individual sprint and bronze in the 15km pursuit before lifting her first Olympic title in the 30km classical, the Pole just getting the better of Norway’s Marit Bjørgen in a breathtaking sprint finish.
Her winning margin of 0.3 seconds was the narrowest in the history of the event.